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Downes Murray International News

When raising money with a mix of methods, tracking results is both vital and tough

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) tried out a new tool to boost donations during its end-year fundraising push: online advertisements that can be targeted at specific people. 

Retailers have been using the technique for years. For example, customers who visit a clothing website without making a purchase will often then see the company’s banner ads as they move around the Internet.

The animal-rights group set a test in which 500 000 supporters saw its banner advertisements as they browsed the Internet, while another group of 500 000 did not.

PETA officials thought the online ads might help nudge supporters to contribute in another way rather than by clicking ads.

That hypothesis turned out to be true. People in the group who saw online ads were 5% more likely to contribute, and their gifts were 12% larger than those made by people in the group who didn’t see the ads. Jogging memories

Nonprofits, like PETA, that coordinate their fundraising campaigns across multiple channels are betting that repeated communications make donors more likely to contribute and that a solicitation in one channel will spur supporters to give a gift in others.

To get the most out of coordinated fundraising, nonprofits have to track who receives which appeals and analyse how the different solicitations affect donations.

Charities can’t make smart decisions about spending if they don’t know which fundraising channels are having the biggest impact on giving.

“Without knowing which one is generating the bulk of the boost, it’s really difficult to invest further in the one that’s working”, says Sarah DiJulio, a principal at M+R Strategic Services, a fundraising consulting company.

Testing techniques
But figuring out how various forms of fundraising influence each other isn’t easy. A large national nonprofit is conducting a test to find out.

The charity is running a three-month campaign during which supporters in six geographic regions will get different combinations of coordinated solicitations.

People in one region will get direct mail; supporters in another region will get mail and telemarketing calls; a third group will get direct mail, telemarketing calls, and online advertising.

At the end of the campaign, the charity will see which combinations bring in the most money, says Walter Lukens, president of the Lukens Company, the fundraising consulting company that is helping the group conduct the experiment.

“We’ll be able to look in the rearview mirror about how this lifts the total response rate and where that growth happens,” he says.

Not every organisation is willing to experiment this much, says Mr. Lukens.

In this case, he says, the charity has a base of older donors and is eager to determine the best way to reach out to younger people.

But some fundraisers say there are limits to how much nonprofits can learn.

An organisation might know that it sent a direct mail appeal to a donor, but there’s no way to tell if that person opened it, says David Chalfant, director of development for Whitman- Walker Health.

“You have to go a little on faith”. “And you have to look at the campaign as an investment and do your best to extrapolate the return on the different channels.”

With acknowledgement to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 27 March 2014

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